ATLANTA - The 115th pitch of Matt Harvey's sweltering afternoon reached the inner half of the plate at 96 mph. The best that pinch hitter Pedro Ciriaco could do was catch a piece of it, perhaps an inch or two away from the barrel of his bat.
Contact produced the muffled sound of cracking wood. It might as well have been a cannon shot, because it produced the run that beat Harvey.
"We're getting used to watching some pretty good pitching and we can't score," Terry Collins said after the Mets' 1-0 loss to the Braves Sunday. "It's a little frustrating for everybody."
Ciriaco's bloop hit in the seventh inning drove in Ryan Lavarnway and spoiled an otherwise brilliant outing by Harvey (7-5, 3.18), who allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings.
At no point this season have the Mets looked more overmatched. After managing only one hit in seven innings against struggling Braves starter Julio Teheran, they fell to 0-5 on their road trip, totaling six runs and a .174 average in that span. They have been shut out twice.
"It's a tough series for all of us," Harvey said. Even he couldn't spare the Mets, who fell to 36-35, the closest they've come to dropping to .500 since April 13. They trail the NL East-leading Nationals by 1 1/2 games, their largest deficit since May 31.
"Right now we're just not coming up with the big hits, especially these last five days," said Michael Cuddyer, who hit into a game-ending double play with runners on first and second in the ninth.
Harvey needed 47 pitches to grind his way through the first two innings but settled down, growing stronger by the inning.
"I know our bullpen was pretty tired so I had to start finding the zone a little bit more, start attacking a little bit better, and I was able to do that," said Harvey, who allowed six hits, walked one and struck out five.
He deserved a shot at a win, but his teammates afforded him no such opportunity.
Injuries kept Travis d'Arnaud (elbow) and Ruben Tejada (ankle) out of a lineup that already was reeling from the absences of Daniel Murphy and David Wright. The results unfolded as expected.
Teheran entered play with a 5.07 ERA but encountered little resistance from the Mets, who for the third time in a week entered the fifth inning seeking their first hit.
Wilmer Flores spared the Mets the indignity of a no-hitter by ripping a leadoff single in the fifth. But Teheran's mastery of the Mets -- he needed only 78 pitches -- extended until he was lifted for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning of a scoreless game. It proved to be a good move for the Braves.
Harvey didn't blink until the seventh, when Lavarnway's two-out double hit the top of the leftfield fence and Ciriaco followed with his pinch-hit blooper to center. Lagares, who has been battling elbow discomfort all season, sailed his throw high and wide of the plate. "I'm kicking myself for those two batters in the seventh," Harvey said. "It's baseball. That's how things work out sometimes."
The Mets gave themselves a chance in the ninth. Curtis Granderson lined a single and Lagares dropped a perfect bunt single. But after Lucas Duda flied out, Cuddyer provided the most appropriate punctuation for what has been a brutal week: He hit into a double play.
"You get two guys on, you're down by one, you want to come through," Cuddyer said. "Unfortunately, I just didn't get the job done."